Book Review: The Coming of the Dragon by Rebecca Barnhouse

After reading, and loving, Peaceweaver by Rebecca Barnhouse I decided I needed to read the companion book The Coming of the Dragon (which was published first). This young adult book; appropriate for middle grade readers and older, was inspired by Beowulf. During the time of peace following Grendel's defeat readers meet Rune. As an infant he washed up on the shore, and many thought he should be killed or left to die. However, Amma, a far-seeing woman knew he was coming and raised him as her own with the kings blessing. The story takes off when Rune is 16. He has been reminded all his life that he is different, and unwanted by some. While chasing after a stubborn goat, Rune sees an awakened dragon and his life is forever changed. The kingdom is in danger, and his true heritage is revealed, as Rune tries to aid his king and prove his worth.

The Coming of the Dragon is a coming of age story with a historical fiction and fantasy feel. The day-to-day lives described in the story matches up very well with how most historians describe the time. The women are strong characters, and the social structure is realistic. Rune is a well-defined character, going through questions about identity and self-worth that most people have faced in some manner in their lives. Amma, the king, and the other characters were also well crafted, coming to life on the pages. Having read Peaceweaver first, I liked seeing the world she was joining explained. Readers that read the books in the right order, with The Coming of the Dragon first, will enjoy seeing how the mysterious Hild came to join the fray in the final scenes of the book.

I highly recommend The Coming of the Dragon to readers that like historical; fiction, fantasy, and re-imaginings of legends. The writing style is fresh but still reminds me of Tamora Pierce and Maria V. Snyder because Barnhouse's work draws me into the story just as completely as their's. High praise from me, since Pierce is my author recommendation to all children and young adults looking for something with a touch of fantasy to read.
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